There is no limit to the number of players a club can use in a league season
The unsatisfactory ending to the 2016 Jazz Safari 50 Over League has left some questioning the liberal rules surrounding the transfer of players in local club cricket.
After Tornado’s no-show resulted in the effortless crowning of Tornado Bee as national champions, it emerged that the former had attempted to register several Kenyan players for the Sunday clash but failed to beat the deadline.
“A club must register a player (at least) 48 hours before a match,” revealed UCA official Martin Ondeko.
He also explained that there is no limit to the number of players a club can use in a league season, meaning if Tornado had worked within time, they could have fielded a side with seven Kenyans, making their debut in the final game of the campaign.
Tornado ultimately followed through on an e-mail they wrote to the UCA on Saturday night saying they would not show up for the game.
But then imagine they had had the seven Kenyans cleared and in all likelihood went on to beat Tornado Bee, surviving relegation and helping the Challengers win the championship.
Even that scenario may have elicited a whiff of disapproval in certain quarters. Yet, obviously, the easy acquisition of players (normally from Kenya) is an established tradition in Uganda cricket and Tornado Bee themselves benefitted from it in their title-deciding clash against the Challengers in June.
The champions unleashed Kenyan brothers Collins and David Obuya on game day, who led them to a three-wicket victory that gave them an advantage in the title race they would not relinquish.
Asked why he had turned to the Kenyans for the first time all season, Tornado Bee captain Jeremy Kibuuka Musoke explained, “The Kenyans are just superior in several ways. They know how to apply themselves”.
The Challengers also suffered against KICC back in February, losing by 118 runs thanks in part to the efforts of four Kenyans, hired for that particular game. One of them, Abdul Rehman, scored a game-best 71 off 57.
Ugandan volleyball grappled with a similar scenario but unlike the UCA, the UVF, took the decision in 2014 to restrict the number of foreigners per team to two. Nkumba Navy had taken advantage of transfer flexibility to assemble an untouchable side of Kenyans.
Local basketball has no restrictions on the number of foreigners a team can have and the UCU Canons, KIU Titans and Nkumba Marines have benefitted a lot from the setup, often using as many as seven non-Ugandans at a time.
The City Oilers would not have won their three championships without (Rwandan) Kami Kabange and to a lesser extent (Kenyan) Arou Ramadan, (Kenyan) Geoff Omondi and (Burundian) Landry Ndikumana.
Kampala Hockey Club has four Kenyans in their ranks even if Wanainchi are runaway favourites to retain the championship.
While the status quo obviously has its pros and cons, it’s clear the process of East African integration is way ahead of schedule on the sports front.